Making Your Home Smarter With Smart Appliances

Products that let you control every aspect of your home remotely are growing at a rapid rate. Smartphone-connected devices and appliances are increasingly common and deliver a stylish, effective design. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.

While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are a few types of devices we found that found the mark for function and style:

GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER

Photo Credit: GE Appliances

Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.

 

LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

Photo Credit: Logitech 

More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smartphone into an additional remote.

 

FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER

Photo Credit: Frigidaire

A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smartphone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!

 

SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR

Photo Credit: Samsung

A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5-inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.

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Four Holiday Decor Trends We’re Excited About This Winter

The holiday season is here and for many of us, that means it’s time to deck the halls. If you’re looking for some inspiration and a place to start, here are some ideas that are certain to get everyone in the spirit.

 

A Tree of a Different Color

Photo Credit: Left – Lushome, Center – HGTV, Right – Christmas365

For many, there’s nothing more quintessential during the holidays than a Christmas tree decked out in ornaments. But acquiring a tree can be challenging and expensive. Moreover, housing a tree consumes time and space. That’s why we love the idea of an alternative tree. There are plenty of options you can buy online or create yourself using things you probably already have around the house. And if you miss the smell of a real tree, try a scented candle or essential oils.

 

The Season of Lights

Photo Credit: Amara

There’s something perpetually charming about twinkling lights. Whether you’re wrapping them around your front porch or adorning your fireplace mantle, extra lights deliver a warm glow during the holiday season. Getting creative and adding light to otherwise unexpected places, including bookcases, around headboards, or even in glassware, is a great way to keep everything looking merry and bright.

 

Act Natural

Photo Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

Not all holiday climates are built alike. If you’re expecting a white Christmas, you’re probably used to pine trees and winter brush, but for those of you located in regions where the mercury doesn’t drop, sprinkling in natural elements can transform your home into a wintery oasis. Holly and pine needles add a traditional touch, or consider a wreath of olive branches with some sleigh bells interspersed.

 

Bring it All Home at Dinner

Photo Credit: Amara

When decorating for the holidays, don’t forget the table! A sprig of holly adds a festive touch to your place settings. And instead of the traditional centerpiece, try placing candles in glass vases or mason jars to give your tablescape that added touch of holiday pizzazz.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Contractor

Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.

But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.

What Is a Warranty?

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.

The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.

“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.

At least in the ideal case.

 

The Law Governing Warranties

Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.

The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.

The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.

Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.

Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to the design or construction of the building.

Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come to see it and repair it.

To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.

 

The One-Year Warranty

The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.

Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.

The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.

But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”

 

Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty

Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.

In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.

If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.

If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.

“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”

Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.

Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”

 

Going Beyond Warranties

Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”

 

More Ways to Protect Yourself

So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)

Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that is backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.

Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”

Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”

 

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz.com

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83 Miles Per Hour

 

Pretend you have been driving on the Interstate at 100 miles per hour. 

Also, pretend you have been doing that for a long time.

Now pretend you slow down to 83 miles per hour.

How would that feel?

It would probably feel slow, right?

83 miles per hour is a 17% decrease from 100. It may feel slow, but it’s still pretty fast.

How does this relate to real estate?

Well, the market has been moving fast for a long time.

It’s been going 100 miles per hour for at least two years (some would argue even longer).

We’ve recently seen a 17% change in terms of number of transactions that are occurring.

There were 17% fewer sales in October 2018 versus October 2017 in Metro Denver.

It feels slow because we’ve been driving so fast for so long. But, our market is still moving.

For example, prices are still up. So, remember, that it’s all relative.

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Designing the Perfect Home Office to Work From Home In Style

Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes work. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.

Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:

  1. Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
  2. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
  3. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
  4. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
  5. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.

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Good News for Buyers

Here’s some good news for buyers who have been waiting for more selection…

No need to wait any more because the numbers show that more new listings are hitting the market compared to the recent past.

In Metro Denver, the number of homes for sale is up 14.42% compared to last year. 

That equates to 800 more homes to choose from.

Start spreading the news!

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Choosing the Right Backsplash for Your Kitchen

Every chef’s kitchen should have a style that matches the delicious food that comes out of it. But even if you’re doing little more than making mac and cheese out of a box, your kitchen still can be a place of color and creativity. Kitchen backsplashes are nothing new, but they’ve seen a recent surge in popularity. We’re fortunate to see homes every day with creative takes on this tiling trend, so we decided to showcase some popular backsplash designs to serve as inspiration.

Glass Tile

Image Rights – Better Homes & Gardens

  • When designing a kitchen, function and flair should work hand in hand. The appeal of glass tiling is that it’s easy to clean.
  • Backing up the functionality is affordability. While glass tiling runs more expensive than ceramic, the cost is typically below stainless steel, and even some stones.
  • Glass tiling is perfect for those with an artistic flair. Whether it’s simply a splash of color, a full mosaic, or even an intricate design, glass tile lets your inner artist shine.
  • While the initial cost may be greater, glass tiling can more easily be found in pre-set sheets, making DIY installation far easier than many other types of tiles.

Ceramic Tile

Image Rights – Kitchen-Design-Ideas.org

  • If you need a backsplash that can hold up to consistent use, ceramic tile is a great fit.
  • The most cost-effective tile to professionally install, ceramic tiling offers a glazed shine with a variety of color options.
  • Creating a clear, simple, ceramic backsplash is a great way to add a colorful flair to your kitchen.
  • Between the cost-effectiveness and its low-maintenance nature, ceramic is unsurprisingly the most common type of kitchen tiling.

Metallic Tile 

Image Rights – Architecture Art Designs

  • Stainless steel is one of the more popular backsplash options for those interested in a metallic finish, but we’re also seeing more aluminum, copper, and bronze tiles.
  • The range in metal type obviously impacts the cost, but most metal tiles are much more expensive than their ceramic counterparts – at least $10 per square foot more.
  • For that extra cost, however, you’ll receive a sturdy backsplash with a modern sheen that is easy to clean.
  • With stainless steel in particular, consistent maintenance is necessary to avoid a dulling of the backsplash’s shine.

Stone Slab

Image Rights – Houzz.com

  • Sturdy? Check. Waterproof? Check. Classy? Check. From soapstone to marble to granite to good old-fashioned brick, there is no more low-maintenance backsplash base than stone.
  • For the pleasure of acquiring a stone backsplash, you’ll typically pay more than most other materials. Between installation and material cost, the up-front payment can approach $1,000 for less than 30 square feet of wall space.
  • With a wide range of stone to choose from, a number of color options are available at varying costs.
  • If that upfront payment is manageable, the results will blend both aesthetics and function, and stone’s resiliency makes any follow-up costs minimal.

For an expert DIY challenge, there are many other ways to create a satisfying backsplash that fits your fancy, including vinyl wallpaper, wood, and even beadboard. What’s your dream backsplash style?

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How Glass Design Can Help Reflect the Best of Your Home

Glass has been a key component of home design for style and function for thousands of years. The versatility of glass is such that nearly every single modern home constructed utilizes glass in some way, shape, or form. But there’s no need to settle for simply including glass window panes and calling it good. Whether it’s in the interior or exterior, accentuating your home with glass is a great way to invite light, show creativity, and convey a truly modern sense of style in your home. We picked a few of our favorite ways to utilize glass below:

 

Glass Furniture

Photo Credit: Trendir.com

  • Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
  • If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
  • Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.

 

Creative Window Glass

Photo Credit: Freshome.com

  • Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
  • Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
  • Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
  • Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.

 

 

Glass Accents

Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com

  • A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
  • Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
  • Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.

 

Sea Glass/Beach Glass

Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com

  • Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
  • In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
  • From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.

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Keeping Up with the Joneses: The Great Paint Debate

A few weeks back, Jenn and I decided to finally pull the trigger on painting our home. The vinyl siding of the 1942 Seattle Cape Cod fixer we purchased nine months ago had been sun bleached to the point of resembling a kind of soft lemon chiffon yellow you’d see on a cake your grandmother baked. Great for dessert, bad for today’s exterior home color.  We wanted a charming, warm and inviting new exterior home color but were fearful about what it would cost to have a professional do it. We had saved between 10-15k by renovating our bathroom ourselves.  Couldn’t we just pick up some paint and make a Saturday of it?

 

Pro tip: In Seattle, painting outside competes with the weather. Make sure you have a runway of at least a week of good weather to ensure you can paint the house in its entirety while leaving time for it to dry.

Seeing as the summer season was pretty much over (say it ain’t so!) and the wet Seattle fall was nearly upon us, we figured we had only a week or two left to get the job done. I’m the kind of person who jumps on a new project… and maybe sometimes I put the horse before the cart. *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk* So once Jenn and I agreed we were going through with the project, I had three different painters bid out the job and booked the least expensive (but experienced) professional within two days. I scheduled him to arrive the following day.

 

Good Husband Tip: Don’t give your wife 12 hours to decide what color to paint your house.

 

Pro TipDon’t feel bad about shopping for the best price with home professionals. They bid homes out every day and won’t be offended. Most of the time, they present a bid with room for negotiation. It never hurts to get a second bid or ask for a cheaper price.

With the pressure of our painter showing up the next day, we scarfed down dinner and took a trip to the paint store.  (I tried to convince my wife this was an opportunity for us to bond as a family unit.  “We could make it educational! Teach Addie about hues and shades!  C’mon, honey… it’ll be fun!” *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*) We knew we had to get special paint for our vinyl siding so that narrowed it down to about 20 options.  And we wanted a sort of dark blue so we picked out two colors that looked promising and headed home to test them out.

Pro TipWhen testing paint, make sure you let it dry before you decide which color to go with.  Paint a few different swatches on various sides of the house and watch how it looks during different times of the day.

One test swatch (on the right, called “Prime Time”) was a little purplely/blue grey and the other was a slightly lighter blue (on the left, called “Stone Cold).  Those are two seriously stellar wrestler names, amiright?

 

With our painter arriving that evening, the pressure was on for us to choose. We’re Millennials so we did the only logical thing you can do when making a big decision. We asked our friends on Facebook. 76 comments later, there was still no clear answer.

Mid-debate, our dear friend Kim Gorsline of Kimberlee Marie Interior Design called us up with some highly insightful information.  First of all, a paint store has pre-mixed vinyl siding paint but they can actually make ANY color into vinyl siding paint.  Which means we had a lot more choices (which left me feeling excited and gave Jenn heartburn).  More importantly, Kim pointed out that the two options we had might not be exactly what we hoped for.  She suggested a few colors that had more grey tones and in much deeper shades.  She promised us that we’d still get the blue house of our dreams even if the colors looked dark grey on the swatches.

Pro tip: You can get small paper swatches for free or pay a few bucks for a large paper square but nothing will compare to a sample of real paint on your surface.  We spent $59.34 on paint samples and it was worth every penny.

Back to the paint store we went, grabbing three more options to test.  Our painter began taping off the trim as we took a few steps back to assess the swatches… BOOM! We had our answer… Britannia Blue by Benjamin Moore. Not the best wrestler name but a nice blue nonetheless.

We trust Kim’s vision and design talent wholeheartedly and as the days went on and the paint went up, we couldn’t have been more pleased.  I installed some new lights fixtures and house numbers that Jenn picked out.  Only this time, I gave her three days of lead time *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*

 

Tyler Davis Jones is a Windermere Real Estate agent in Seattle who, with his wife Jenn, recently traded in their in-city condo for a 1940s fixer-upper. Tyler and Jenn, along with the help of some very generous friends and family members, are taking on all the renovations themselves. You can follow the transformation process on the Windermere Blog or on Tyler’s website and Instagram

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Transforming Your House from a Summer Home to a Winter Hideaway

None of us want to admit it, but Winter is Coming. The new season of Game of Thrones might not be until 2019, but your home will need preparation before then. As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple Sundays should be more than enough to knock this out:

Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.

Insulation: Insulating a home can reduce your energy bill by up to 50%. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.

Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.

Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Don’t underestimate the difference some weatherstrips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.

Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

Heating System: What’s one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Annual checks of are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have, remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.

Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%.

Outside: As we mentioned before, make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season. If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

Emergency Kit: Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.

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